Man Fired for "Berating" Chick-fil-A Employee

Public opinion rages on after Chick-fil-A's CEO said he supported "the biblical definition of the family unit." First, we heard outrage from supporters of gay marriage and saw the company's softened stance on the issue.

The saga continues as one man wanted to tell a Chick-fil-A employee-at a drive-through window-how he felt. Adam Smith, the (former) CFO of Vante, a medical supplies manufacturer, posted a video of the interaction on YouTube. Smith ordered a free water, referred to Chick-fila-A as "a horrible corporation with horrible values," and told the employee, "I don't know how you live with yourself and work here."

Vante didn't appreciate Smith's behavior or the publicity and fired the CFO. In response, Smith posted another video in which he apologizes to the employee; refers to her "beauty," "kindness," and "patience" in dealing with him; and explains that he "lost it." He said, "You should be very proud of how you handled the stressful situation. Great job. Wow."

Vante issued this statement to explain the decision to terminate Smith:

"Vante regrets the unfortunate events that transpired yesterday in Tucson between our former CFO/Treasurer Adam Smith and an employee at Chick-fil-A. Effective immediately, Mr. Smith is no longer an employee of our company.

"The actions of Mr. Smith do not reflect our corporate values in any manner. Vante is an equal opportunity company with a diverse workforce, which holds diverse opinions. We respect the right of our employees and all Americans to hold and express their personal opinions; however, we also expect our company officers to behave in a manner commensurate with their position and in a respectful fashion that conveys these values of civility with others.

"We hope that the general population does not hold Mr. Smith's actions against Vante and its employees."

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek gives us a legal perspective on this situation and others: "Where Free Speech Goes to Die: The Workplace." The author explains:

"In America you can say pretty much whatever you want, wherever you want to say it. Unless, that is, you're at work. Simply put, there is no First Amendment right to 'free speech' in the workplace-potentially perilous for many employees in a polarized political year with a tight presidential race."

Mark Trapp, an employment lawyer further clarifies the limitation of "free speech":

"The First Amendment applies only to employees of the government in certain situations, and all citizens when they're confronted by the government."

Discussion Starters:

  • Did Smith's boss do the right thing? What are the arguments for firing him and for keeping him employed?
  • How do you assess the Chick-fil-A employee's reaction to Smith? Did she handle the situation well?